The New England Revolution hosted Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium Saturday night and managed to break their recent losing streak in a 3-2 victory that was, predictably, not without controversy. The win marked a momentous occasion in Revolution history, as heralded newcomer Benny Feilhaber took the pitch with his new teammates wearing Revs jerseys branded with United Healthcare logos, representing New England's new (and first-ever) jersey sponsor.
Marko Perovic opened the scoring in the 12th minute with an excellent curling strike only to see Kei Kamara tie it up in the 14th. Kamara doubled his tally in the 69th from the spot after a dubious penalty was awarded. New England responded well, gaining an equalizer through captain Shalrie Joseph, newly returned from suspension, in the 72nd minute and then finding a winner in the 84th through Rajko Lekic.
It took some time for both teams to get going. Kei Kamara threatened 26 seconds in with a shot that flashed wide left, but after that it was mostly fouls and giveaways from both teams. The Revolution managed to get some possession attacking third but were unable to turn it into much, and frankly Sporting KC looked the more dangerous side.
That changed in the 12th minute when Benny Feilhaber vindicated all of the support and excitement he's been shown by the Revolution faithful. Rajko Lekic received the ball on the left and cut back before playing a cross into the box. It was deflected away but only as far as Feilhaber, who cleverly slipped it to Perovic at the top of the box, and the Serbian did the rest.
Unfortunately for the home side, they fell asleep immediately after scoring. Jimmy Nielsen lofted a free kick deep into New England's defensive third that was met by the head of Teal Bunbury. His knockdown went out to the right and found Kei Kamara, who cut inside Didier Domi and beat Matt Reis at his near post to even the score.
Both sides then proceeded to squander several good opportunities, the Revolution being the most egregious culprits. Rajko Lekic found himself in possession of the ball about eight yards from the goalmouth in the 22nd minute but somehow contrived to screw his shot well wide left when it would have been easier to score. Later in the half, Shalrie Joseph was played in but got the ball caught up under his feet as he bombed through the box, and the ball eventually fell to Zak Boggs who skied it badly from only six or so yards out.
The second half got off to an inauspicious start when Sporting KC had a penalty shout turned down. Some Revolution fans will say that it was karmic justice after New England had a shout of their own waved away when Lekic was taken down from behind in the box.
After waving away two legitimate-looking appeals for penalties, the referee decided it was time to blow the whistle at the third time of asking in the 68th minute, and this time it was clearly the wrong call. Teal Bunbury worked to the byline and then took the ball into the box against Kevin Alston. Bunbury attempted to turn Alston but instead kicked the ball into touch, but he still went down under Alston's challenge. The referee pointed to the spot despite the fact that the ball was already well out of bounds when Bunbury went down. Kamara converted for his second goal of the match.
The Revs would not be outdone, however. Shalrie Joseph answered off of a Kenny Mansally free kick about four minutes later. Mansally has had a rough go of things lately, but his deliveries off free kicks were on-target this evening, and in this case he placed the ball right on the head of his captain. Joseph was under considerable pressure but still coolly finished with the head over Nielsen.
The match looked to be deteriorating in the 75th minute when Aurelien Collin barged into Matt Reis while the two challenged for an aerial ball. It was a rough challenge, yet on replay it looked to be fair. The Revolution players took exception, however, and a small scuffle ensued between the two sides that resulted in Feilhaber being put to the ground by an apparent blow from Collin. The KC new-boy was shown a straight red card for his troubles, leaving Sporting down a man with 15 minutes to defend the draw.
They did not. Unlike a few weeks ago in Vancouver when New England appeared to lose their way after gaining a numerical advantage, the Revs turned on the pressure and in the 83rd minute found their winner through Rajko Lekic. "Psycho" rose highest to nod home a phenomenal right-flank cross from Zak Boggs. The Danish international was carded for removing his shirt in celebration but didn't much care as he was obviously elated to break his duck for his new team.
Sporting KC threatened one final time in the 90th minute when Roger Espinoza unleashed an excellent shot from outside the area, but Reis was equal to it and managed to smother the rebound.